Thursday, July 20, 2017


I think that this title -- copped from Fargo 2017 -- is the best possible descriptor for JFNA 2017.

A Friend of the Blog sent me the following:
"Iron Law of Institutions. The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution."
And, here we are: Law applied.  I wish there were another explanation for the shit-show of JFNA 2017 where down is up, failure is success and black is white. Now, within the Law as applied and as detailed below I would exclude Board Chair Richard Sandler and past Chair of the Executive Dede Feinberg -- I know they care first and foremost about the institution they were elected to serve, and surely there are others who do so as well. But as an outsider observing an institution I have known well, the "golden ring" of "power for power's" sake has influenced too, too many...and JFNA and the federations are the losers. 

In our communities and at JFNA I watch as in too many places generous women and men have bought their way to organizational power in a wholly transparent manner (they don't hide it) and they have been permitted to do so; for, if power weren't bestowed upon these generous but acquisitive men and women, they will take their charitable dollars and the power of their gifts to another charity that will reward them immediately with no more than a snap of their fingers. For so many of these folks it's just notches on their personal leadership totem poles; their personal agendas become the agendas of the institution they were elected to lead; agendas often hidden from view on their way to "the top," and, in the case of JFNA, too often far, far away from the needs of the members which support it. 

I can think of no other explanation for how, in so many ways including in the past and, potentially in the future, JFNA leaders can possibly demonstrate so little interest in "leading." There is such a leadership void at JFNA that a succession of superbly credentialed federation leaders aspire to high office, and having gained it...nothing. Over the past 8 years, approaching the 9th, these leaders have kept Jerry Silverman at the wheel unfettered by things like, you know, accountability as he continues to steer the ship directly into the abyss. Perhaps the most infelicitous CEO of any Jewish organization, Jerry is propped up by a debased laity and a group of federation CEOs who know better but care not.

As one of you recently observed:
" all goes back to Lay Leadership, and they have just walked away.
What gets me is that for some reason these local federation leaders either are clueless to the folly at 25 Broadway, or they are aware, but for some reason they see something good in being involved with an organization so devoid of purpose.
I don't know which is worse.
They are not "clueless" -- at least that would be an excuse of sorts.

And so let us end as we began, with a quote from Fargo 2017:“You think the world is something and then it turns out to be something else.” And that is exactly where JFNA is now "something else"...somewhere else...but not the place that those of us who led this merger intended it to be, not close. No, "unfathomable pinheadery" has gotten us to this wretched place -- where an organization with the promise of greatness has sunk into a hole of its own making, devoid of vision or purpose. 

And never is heard a discouraging word; and the skies are not cloudy all day.



Anonymous said...


I don't know that this is the appropriate place, but.....

Thank you for your insight and your passion.

I don't always agree with you, but you always make me think.

As a Federation professional for close to 20 years, I'd be honored to have you as one of my partners.

RWEX said...

I am humbled by your Comment.

Many thanks,


Anonymous said...

It seems as if there is no hope of JFNA saving itself from itself. The CEO is truly a waste of $700,000 a year, accomplishing nothing and leading nowhere and a Board Chair and Board who seem just fine with this reality. Until such time as the lay leadership meets its responsibilities to the institution the waste will continue and JFNA will continue to the joke you have described. It appears that there is today no lay leadership whatsoever, they have disappeared.

Anonymous said...

That woeful leadership hears "the discouraging word" but always want to leave it to others to act -- but that same leadership is too busy; too busy to listen or act (that would be Richard Sandler); too busy with their ambition for higher office at JFNA (and we all know whom they are). If "too busy" isn't the reason, then all we have left is blindness, stupidity, fear or laziness. Or, of course, it probably is all of the above.

Anonymous said...

Jfna should claw back silvermans remuneration by the percentage decline in overseas funding for core

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for giving me a good laugh

Anonymous said...

The last Comment must have been from Silverman who is laughing all the way to the bank.

Anonymous said...

The only thing necessary for the triumph of those who are destroying our organization and our collective community is for good men to do nothing.

RWEX said...

and that's exactly what these men and women are doing -- nothing.

Anonymous said...

The real problem isn't the pinheadery of those in charge but rather the lack of leadership and courage of those responsible - our lay "leadership" and we ourselves for not forcing them to act on our behalf.

Bob Hyfler said...

Throughout the Jewish nonprofit world we have seen the withering of the authority of boards and volunteer leadership - a systemic phenomenon hardly unique to JFNA or Federations. The question of course is whether this is a result of coup or abdication and what needs to be done about it.

Anonymous said...

Those who write here and do nothing in their Federations are the true pinheads

Anonymous said...

You and many of the commentators have shown remarkable restraint (i know many would disagree) in exhorting the JFNA lay leadership and the federation CEOs to actually DO SOMETHING about the tragic disaster JFNA is and has been.

JFNA is a public charity that it lay and professional leaders believe can act as if it were a private one, an ATM for its professional cohort and a do-nothing paradigm of waste. I have asked the New York Attorney General Charities Bureau to commence an inquiry with regard to JFNA -- its compensation and consultant payments and its overhead relative to its return on federation (the "donors") "investment." I would ask any of the readers of this Blog to reach out to the NY AG as well. See,

It would be far better of course if JFNA's own leadership took responsible action but, clearly, they aren't interested in or up to the responsibility.

Anonymous said...

It is too bad that it has come to this but I can understand why it was necessary for someone to take this kind of action where nobody that should have dealt with it from within was willing to do so.